Don’t make me think…

We have become a culture of easy, quick, right at your fingertips. The iPhone has changed the way we look at the world, what we expect, and how we expect to consume information, apps, and really anything that is easily accessible.

On my flight back from Shanghai I finished reading a book called: “Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability” by Steve Klug. I love the title of his book as it is spot on. I would rather frequent a website that does not make me hunt and peck for the information I need. Obviously there are plenty of websites that you do not have a choice and have to use. Your banking, credit card, local water company or trash service website all mean you either call them or get what you get on their website.

I am still always in awe of how quickly smartphones, the web, and apps have made it that we do a zillion things all within a tiny little device. I remember maybe 5 years ago, I was still using an old school flip phone that did not even have a camera, while Chris had a Razr phone. At the time the Razr was so slim and such a big deal. Eventually I upgraded from my old school phone to an iPhone 3 and well, my life was just never the same. Klug explains this well in this comment:

“Just consider how many things the smartphone allowed you to carry in your pocket or purse at all times: a camera (still and video, and for many people, the best one they’d ever owned), a GPS with maps of the whole world, a watch, an alarm clock, all of your photos and music, etc., etc.” page 144

Think about how much you do on a daily basis on your phone. How many people do you communicate with daily, hourly, each minute? How many pictures and videos do you take and share? How often do you check your stocks? The news? How many games do you play? How often do you interact with social media? How much do you manage your finances right from your phone? Do you check the weather daily? Get directions to that new restaurant? Listen to music? Track your flight? Surf the Internet? Do you manage your life, grocery, and errand lists on your phone? Oh, and the old school part of it all, how often do you even use your phone to talk to someone?

Later Klug says:

“And think about the fact that for most people in emerging countries, in the same way they bypassed landlines and went straight to cellphones, the smartphone is their first—and only—computer.” page 144

It would blow my mind if my cellphone was my first computer. That would be like driving from zero to 100 in seconds. We have become so picky about user interface. We want easy, clean, and simple. The great part is that most of the time we have access to so many options. The even better news is that our options are only going to get better and better. Allowing us to do so many things on autopilot without having to think. With great design our lives become that much easier. My only concern is that we do not lose our capacity to think critically.

I heart SH

Shanghai skyline

Shanghai skyline

Shanghai has my heart. I cannot tell a fib. I am a bit smitten, but at the end of the day Portland is still my favorite. Every time we travel somewhere new we always compare it to Portland, and every single time Portland wins. While I am still smitten with PDX, that does not mean I cannot allow a bit of a few other cities into my heart. There are quite a few things I want to share about Shanghai, so I will split it into a few blogs over the course of the next few weeks. So, where should I start?

We walked. A LOT.

Crazy number of people in the street

Crazy number of people in the street

Every day. In some ways it is like New York City in that there is a great subway system, buses, and cheap taxis, but somehow when it is nice out and warm enough why not walk? You find the great hidden gems in a city on foot. We found amazing food, funky shops, random neighborhoods, and loads, and loads, and LOADS of people. Our first day ended up being over their National Holiday, so the people that we saw were actually potentially from another part of China on vacation (of course I did not ask them, but that is what we were told). The photo below shows how many people are coming towards us as we cross a street. Hundreds at one time.

One of the things that stood out to me the most, is how genuinely nice everyone is to you. Of course maybe that is because you are a guest in their hotel, store, or restaurant, but hell I am a guest in hundreds of places a year in the United States and no one has ever treated me with such kindness. There is always a smile on their face (and maybe it is part of their job, but if it is they do not make it look painful). I found myself on the plane trip back saying: xie xie (said syeh-syeh) only to realize I was on my way back to the United States. Xie Xie is thank you in Mandarin. I got so used to saying it to everyone all the time, maybe because they have such an amazing service culture. The US could really learn something from their patience and poise.

Guy carries handbag

Guy carries handbag

A few funny things.  We often would see men carrying their spouse, partner, girlfriend, what-have-you’s purse/bag. You rarely see that in the states. Chris will ONLY do it when I am trying on clothes and do not want to leave my bag in the dressing room. Does that make men in Shanghai more carefree, egoless? Is there another word that describes it?

Mobile pet store?

Mobile pet store?

This I guess is a mobile pet store? We saw bunnies, gerbils, a dog, and a few other animals. I did not want to stay long enough to find out, but it was a busy little portable pet store located on the outskirts of a park.

Open 25 hours?

Open 25 hours?

There are other things that perplex me, like this shop that is open for 25 hours.

More to come in a future blog on my favorite food in Shanghai, taxis, and bathrooms (what is not to love about potty talk in a new city)?

I heart good people.

It has been a good week. I have been surrounded by genuinely good people. It makes my heart flutter a bit to be reminded of the preciousness of life, of meeting new people, trying new things, and having a wonder and awe that sometimes when you go outside of your routine you are able to look at life differently.

I actually love my routine. I love the structure it provides in my life, what it allows me to do. However, we all need moments, days, and weeks in our life where we live outside the bubble we live in. Where we feel uncomfortable, do something different, and have moments where our awkwardness sheds light into a different or new view on the world. Maybe that is through a new experience or challenge, new food, or a new culture.

I am on my way back from Shanghai, China. I have been here for two weeks, and in a few hours I will be flying back home. Next week I will share some highlights from my trip. It is a fascinating city, different from Portland in so many ways. I will not tell you about that now, as I want to savor my trip and let it marinate a bit. I will tell you that I am inspired by the conversations I had this week, the different individuals I met, the new friends I made.

As I said I want to process it all, put together the story of my week, but all in all, I feel blessed to have been surrounded by good people. It makes me optimistic about the world, it inspires me, and brings a smile to my face. We like what is comfortable. So often we go to work and interact with the same people, get into our car, drive home, and do it all over again. Sure we interact at the grocery store, or Target, or with the gas station attendant, but how often do we get to meet new people and truly connect with them for an extended period of time?

Good people. We should always surround ourselves with good people.

What to wear today?

Do you ever have those days when you cannot decide what to wear? Of course you do, we all have them. Even men have them. Although I have a hunch that women have them much more often. Most likely it is our hormones. I cannot tell you how often in the past I ended up on the floor of the closest in tears (and trust me I rarely cry) because nothing fit, or nothing felt right on my body that day.

My usual instinct is to always be comfortable. Presentable, but comfortable. What makes things more complicated is when I have to do a presentation, whether in front of a larger group of people, or a group of leaders. It makes me think that much more about being comfortable while also presentable. I occasionally miss the years of my life when I worked from home and my only “clothing” mission of the day was that I take a shower before Chris came home from work. I could at times go days before ever leaving the house. I do not have that luxury anymore. Each day is a new day with all of its newness, oldness, and everything in between.

nothing_to_wearWhen I came across this photo on Pinterest, I thought “oh man that is so me.” On those days when I have to give a presentation and all I want to do is be ever so cozy, and yet I cannot be. Instead, I need to be a bit more put together. I need to be more aware of how what I wear does not distract from the ideas I am sharing or the strategy I may be rolling out. In the end, dress, clothes, and what we wear matters. That does not mean that I believe that you have to dress up, but what you put together and how you present yourself matters.

Does it matter for men in the same way? Yes and no. In many ways I have seen it first hand where a guy can wear a t-shirt and jeans and it not matter if he looks less “put together” and yet if a woman wore it in the same situation she would be considered dressed down. Not fair, but at the moment it is the state of things.

Embrace the days where you sit on the floor of your closet. See if you can find something that can express who you are supposed to be today, who you are, and who you want to be.

Bikes instead of desks

I am a fan of activity. We sit too much. We watch television, surf the Internet, and generally have become less mobile in recent years. I am not one that is comfortable sitting for long periods of time. I need to move. So when I saw that schools are utilizing standing desks, I thought: “What a great idea.” The article is titled: “Standing Desks Are Coming To Schools, To Cure Obesity And Increase Attention Spans” and it is brilliant that the focus is on obesity and attention spans.

I can remember the strange desks we had a school. Either you had one that had a top that pulled up (and sometimes would easily fall back down on your hand or your head). The base was made of metal, and the top part was made of wood. The other variation we had in my school was also wood + metal, but the desktop did not lift up, rather there was almost a cove/drawer that did not move and was open where you kept all your supplies. I think if I had a choice looking back I would take the more lethal variety of the open top desk. It allowed you to find things more easily, even if it sometimes felt like a hatchet.

In any case, neither desk did anything to help with obesity or attention spans which is why I love the idea of having kids stand. Whether for the attention span aspect of being able to focus more readily or to learn how to sit still, even if it means it is happening while standing. I wonder how many elementary school boys can stand long enough to make it through a class each day? However, if they can pass the test, maybe that is amazing progress for other kids.

Or you can take it to an entirely new level. with this Fast Company article titled: “This School Has Bikes Instead Of Desks–And It Turns Out That’s A Better Way To Learn.” Maybe we can have an amalgamation of both standing desks and bikes to add some variety. Well, actually mostly all for variety. I agree with the article, with physical education and recess being cut either entirely or significantly, maybe these are the new options for maintaining activity at schools?

A more focused and active child, what is not to love? What do you think?